International business travelers entering the United States could spend more time clearing immigration, especially if they have visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. That’s because of tighter security measures and new restrictions imposed on the visa waiver program (VWP) passed in the wake of terrorist attacks on Nov. 13 in Paris and Dec. 2 in California.
The VWP permits citizens of 38 designated countries, mostly in Europe, to travel to the United States for business or tourism for up to 90 days without a visa.
The House of Representatives passed new VWP security provisions on Dec. 8. The Senate was expected to approve similar legislation in time to be rolled into the 2016 federal spending bill. A stopgap bill was approved Dec. 16 and a final bill incorporating the VWP changes was scheduled for votes in both houses by Dec. 22. The White House backs the VWP security measure.
The legislation would prohibit anyone who has traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan within the past five years from participating in the visa waiver program. Those travelers would have to apply in person for visas at overseas U.S. consulates before being allowed to enter the country.
The legislation would also require countries participating in the VWP to improve data security and biometric identification microchip features built into their passports.
Travelers entering the United States under the visa waiver program should expect increased security screenings and potential delays.